Tim Allen’s Buzz Lightyear was flawed in Toy Story, but he was never as goofy as the sequels made him, and Lightyear makes that so much worse.
Pixar’s Lightyear is an insult to the original Buzz Lightyear, but not because of the recasting of Tim Allen. The problem runs a lot deeper than that, continuing the worst thing about Toy Story 4, and taking Buzz’s mistreatment to the worst extreme. Considering the popularity of the original Pixar character, it’s little surprise that Lightyear’s version did not quite land.
Criticism in Lightyear‘s reviews focused on its inability to meet the quality of Pixar’s best movies – or even the middling ones – with question marks over how this movie could possibly be the 6-year-old Andy’s favorite movie. The tone does not work for a child, despite the saving grace of Sox the cat, and it does not quite balance its story enough to hit both family and adult audiences – that pillar of Pixar movie success. And putting aside the ridiculous review bombing that comes from any even remotely challenging content, Lightyear is mostly disappointing because of its potential.
Buzz Lightyear was one of Pixar’s truly great characters, an egotistical but wholesome hero who was admirable enough to actually make Tom Hanks’ Woody feel like Toy Story‘s villain. The idea that Buzz had to be reinvented to work in Lightyear makes no sense at best, and is an outright insult at worst, but then that’s no surprise when the Toy Story sequels stripped away what made the character great with each release. By Toy Story 4’s ending, Tim Allen’s space ranger was a parody, lacking even basic intelligence who was badly sidelined as the movie chose to continue Woody’s story. And that sidelining was ultimately made significantly worse by Lightyear‘s decision to throw Allen’s characterization out of the window entirely.
Why Chris Evans’ Buzz Lightyear Is So Different
Lightyear director Angus MacLane explained that Buzz in Toy Story would not work in the “prequel”: “Tim’s version of Buzz is a little goofier and is a little dumber, and so he is the comic relief. In this film, Buzz is the action hero. He’s serious and ambitious and funny, but not in a goofy way that would undercut the drama. Chris Evans has the gravitas and that movie-star quality that our character needed to separate him and the movie from Tim’s version of the toy in Toy Story.“He was, seemingly, not a good enough hero to carry a movie that needed to convincingly kick off the obsessive toy buying that led Andy to get his own Buzz for his birthday. The problem, though, is that Buzz Lightyear was always a hero , he was always ambitious, always serious, and always funny. What he was not, was goofy – at least not until the Toy Story sequels lost sight of him.
In his place, Lightyear chose a more traditional hero, bold, typical and, frankly, more boring than Allen’s version. Yes, Chris Evans’ version has flaws – his fear of what would happen if he does not save the day himself primarily – but he’s too wholesome, too straightforward and not disarmingly charming enough to really fit in the Toy Story Buzz’s moon boots. The toy Buzz is incredibly confident, no doubt because his directive is based on the final version of Evans’ intrepid hero, and there is range and flair in the way Allen plays him. Chris Evans is a great actor, and a great superhero actor at that, but his voice work follows the trend of named actors being cast without any sort of check that they have the necessary variety of vocal performance.
Why Lightyear Is Such An Insult To Toy Story’s Original Buzz
Tim Allen’s Buzz Lightyear did not need to be replaced, but the changes to his character started with the sequels. Tom Hanks’ Woody was always the hero, and the implied shared billing by Toy Story‘s ending never actually came true as the sequels steadily pushed Buzz aside into a supporting role. He became a comedy foil, and often a victim of Toy Story‘s comedy: such as the flamenco dancing sequence in Toy Story 3and his obliviousness in Toy Story 4 to Woody’s advice. Buzz effectively devolved, and in Toy Story 4 was a sidekick at best to Woody.
In Lightyear, Tim Allen’s Buzz wasn’t even considered a viable option, despite starring in four movies and multiple shorts. The devolution of the character through the sequels was so complete that the film-makers only saw the goofy version who had replaced the wholesome fool who was only blinded by his programming. He wasn’t an idiot in Toy Storyhe was a tragic figure, but the sequels doubled down on making him a foil to Woody’s straighter character and Lightyear‘s creative team believed that to be the true essence of Buzz Lightyear. Not only is that completely wrong, it’s also an insult to the original character.
Next: Why Pixar Has Recast Tim Allen For The Buzz Lightyear Movie
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